The firm has extended its capability in Singapore significantly and had more success before the UK courts.
- Pending cases as counsel:
- Value of pending counsel work:
- US$6+ billion
- Treaty cases:
- Current arbitrator appointments:
- 10 (of which 8 are as sole or chair)
- No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
Founded in 1982 as a breakaway from Norton Rose, the firm now has around 100 partners with a focus on energy, transport, international trade and asset finance.
In the early 2000s, a group led by two partners in London helped establish the firm’s name in international arbitration. They won a pitch to represent India in the state’s first investment treaty arbitration and later brought in Vivendi as a client for the Deutsche Telekom arbitration over control of a Polish telecoms firm. During the same era, the Singapore office began to develop a local name for expertise in the field. All of the senior partners from that period have since been poached by other practices, but the arbitration group they built has endured in the hands of the able younger partners who worked for them on the early mega-cases.
The group – now led by Andrew Savage, who was appointed head of litigation and arbitration in 2007 – has expanded in recent years with lateral hires in London, Paris and Bangkok.
The practice continues to have a strong presence in South East Asia (Bangkok and Singapore) and London, with the ability to call on colleagues in New York and Paris. It is home to a respected Russian arbitration specialist, Olga Baglay, who works from London.
Who uses it?
The team has worked for India, Pakistan, Zambia and Bangladesh in the past five years, as well as various banks, energy businesses and metals companies. Vivendi and Trafigura are repeat clients. The firm has also been retained by the Bahamas to consult on its new arbitration legislation.
Watson Farley & Williams represented the winning side in one of the big moments of 2010 – the final round of Dallah v Pakistan – in which the UK Supreme Court refused to enforce an ICC award against the firm’s client, Pakistan. The case is thought to be only the third time the English courts have declined to enforce an award under the New York Convention, and earned the firm and its appointed barrister, Toby Landau QC of Essex Court Chambers, the “Court Win of the Year” award at the GAR Awards in March 2011. (But the position, it has to be said, has since evened out after Dallah achieved recognition and enforcement of the award in the Paris, the seat of the arbitration.)
Dallah v Pakistan aside, the firm helped Hydro Aluminium secure an LCIA award in a row with Tajikistan (Herbert Smith was on the other side). It also defended an Iranian offshore construction company against a US$100 million ICC claim by an Italian counterparty.
In October 2011, of counsel Patrick Angénieux, who worked on the Dallah case, left the firm to join Salans in Berlin. At a round the same time, Watson Farley & Williams’ Singapore office formed a joint venture with local firm Asia Practice, allowing it to act on the supervisory court aspects of Singapore-seated arbitrations for the first time. The joint venture, WFW Asia Practice, is led by Marcus Gordon, who has headed the firm’s Singapore arbitration group since 2010, and Singapore-qualified Asia Practice partner Mark Tan.
On the work front, the firm says it has continued to see “huge amounts” of new work in the global shipbuilding and oil and gas sectors. It has also enjoyed more success before the UK courts, successfully defending a US$350,000 award for Pakistani cotton buyer Olympia in August 2011.